Mayor Don Iveson held a follow-up meeting with homeless Edmontonians Monday after recent talks on the issue with his counterparts from other major Canadian cities.
Late last month, Toronto Mayor John Tory held a summit which included Iveson and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson to discuss Canada’s housing crisis and to look at how more infrastructure investment can be steered towards housing.
“Housing is an issue that affects Toronto residents at every age and every income level,” Tory recently said. “One of the reasons we need our federal partners to take action on housing is so young, talented people can afford to live and work in Toronto, our economy can grow and our city can continue to compete.”
“When you’re homeless, you think about not being homeless 24 hours a day,” Brad Ponicappo, one of three homeless Edmontonians who met with Iveson Monday, said. “To actually voice your concerns to somebody who is in a position to make a difference or have someone in the government listen to you – that’s a big thing.”
The federal government has been undergoing consultations with various stakeholders as it embarks on developing a national housing strategy, and last week, the Canada Housing and Renewal Association (CRHA) – which advocates for homeless Canadians – submitted its position, suggesting aboriginals and the working poor – particularly in Canada’s north – should receive special attention from Ottawa.
The CRHA also suggested more emphasis should be put on making rental units more affordable, instead of just looking at how to reduce the price of houses.
“The fact is that there are a lot of Canadians for whom house prices simply don’t mean anything because that’s just completely out of reach,” Jeff Morrison, the CRHA’s executive director, said last week. “We need to focus as part of the strategy on those Canadians for whom the non-profit, the affordable housing sector, the social housing sector, is really their only option.”
In a document outlining Canada’s Big City Mayors Caucus’ position on how to develop a national housing strategy, a seven-pronged approach is outlined.
They mayors call for dedicated funding for affordable housing, a commitment to ending homelessness, increasing support of new and affordable housing, encouraging construction of more rental properties, creating housing funds aimed at northern and indigenous communities, reviewing the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s mandate and looking to “innovate for sustainable solutions.”
Robertson recently spoke about how Vancouver is trying to address the issue, where the availability of affordable housing is notoriously scant.
“Vancouver is doing everything we can to protect and build affordable homes, using all tools available to ensure the best use of all our housing,” he said. “But we need the support of senior governments to deepen affordability and support both owners and renters in this tough market. The federal government’s National Housing Strategy is a tremendous opportunity to up the ante on investments in affordable housing.”
This past spring, Edmonton’s Capital Region Housing said it saw a significant surge in applications for social and affordable housing over the past year-and-a-half.
In March, the group’s wait list for providing social and affordable housing in the Edmonton area was at 4,300 compared to just 1,200 in the fall of 2014.
Watch below: The wait list for a subsidized home has more than tripled since 2014 and the list is growing. Kendra Slugoski filed this report
Canada’s big city mayors have called on the Trudeau government to set aside $12.6 billion in the coming decade to help build more affordable housing units across the country.
The national housing strategy is expected to be released by early 2017.
-With files from Global News’ Emily Mertz and The Canadian Press.